The effigy of the Mother of God is a replica of the icon miraculously unearthed in Kazan in 1579 in the ruins of a burnt down house. Legend has it that it was found by a young girl named Matrona, to whom the Virgin Mary had appeared repeatedly to indicate the location of its rediscovery. The icon, which became the object of popular devotion and was considered miraculous, was then taken from Kazan to Moscow. The scenes that surround the effigy of Mary with her son Jesus, follow a narrative order than runs in horizontal sections from top to bottom, and from left to right. In the first six episodes they tell the story of the Virgin’s apparitions to Matrona and the rediscovery of the icon. Then there are three scenes depicting the icon’s transfer to the cathedral in Kazan, followed by ten episodes of prodigious healing by the sacred tablet. The last episode describes the transfer of the Virgin’s image to Moscow. The veneration for the icon of Our Lady of Kazan gained momentum during the 17th century when the Romanov dynasty came into power, rising to fill the role of protector of Russia against invaders. The icon kept in Moscow, which may have been the original taken to Kazan in 1612 or, according to another version, a copy, was transferred to the new capital St. Petersburg, by order of Tsar Peter the Great.
In the Uffizi icon, the effigy of the Virgin with Child features, in the naturalistic contours of the complexions, a reference to the style of Simon Usakov and the masters of the Kremlin Armoury, whereas the rich decoration of the clothes is reminiscent of the iconographic tradition of the workshops in Yaroslavl and Kostroma. Instead, the scenes at the sides present less refined methods, a recurring characteristic in the Uffizi icons.